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For more information When do you need to treat drinking water? Storing drinking water for emergencies
For more information
When do you need to treat
drinking water?
Storing drinking water
for emergencies
Call our regional office.
Eastern Region: Spokane Valley
Normally your water is safe to drink, but you
To prepare for a drinking water emergency,
Northwest Region: Kent 253-395-6750
Southwest Region: Tumwater 360-236-3030
may need to treat it if your usual water supply is
interrupted or becomes unsafe for drinking.
Conditions that may require treatment of
drinking water include:
the American Red Cross recommends
storing one gallon of water per person per
day—enough for at least three days (two
quarts for drinking and two quarts for food
preparation and sanitation).
Our publications are online at
 Disasters that interrupt your water supply,
such as floods, earthquakes, and power
 Water supply system disruption or loss of
pressure due to line breaks or repairs.
 Special conditions when your water system,
local health department, or the state
Department of Health advise you to boil or
treat the water before drinking.
For people with disabilities, this document is
available on request in other formats. To
submit a request, please call 1-800-525-0127
(TDD/TTY call 711).
Preparing for emergencies
The best way to ensure a safe supply of
for Emergency
drinking water is to store enough water to last
through an emergency. Although most
emergencies are unexpected, you may be able to
anticipate situations by watching or listening to
weather reports. You should also pay attention
to notices from your water system about planned
water disruptions or other conditions that could
signal a problem with your water supply.
Very warm temperatures
and intense physical
activity can double that
amount; children,
nursing mothers, and
ill people will need
 Collect the water
from a safe supply. If
you get your water from a
private well or a water system serving fewer
than 15 homes or businesses, ask your local
health department how to have it tested.
 Use proper storage containers. Store the
water in containers made for water storage,
or glass and plastic jugs previously used for
soft drinks or bottled water. Clean the
containers thoroughly before using and
make sure the caps fit tightly. Never reuse a
container that held toxic substances, such as
pesticides, chemicals, or oil.
Even if you don’t store a supply of water, keep
the following items on hand to treat water during
an emergency:
October 2014
DOH 331-115 (revised)
 Fresh supply of liquid bleach and kitchen
measuring spoons or a medicine dropper. You
can get a dropper with teaspoon and milliliter
markings at a drug store.
 Add 1 or 2 drops of liquid bleach per
gallon to maintain water quality while in
storage. Seal the container tightly and label
with the date.
 Equipment to boil water, such as propane or
gas stoves or an outside barbecue grill.
Remember, your usual source of energy may
not be available during an emergency.
 Store in a cool place, safe from flooding,
freezing, and damage from earthquakes. We
recommend that every six months you use or
discard stored water and replace it with a
fresh supply.

Treating water during an emergency:

Boil or add bleach?

If you are informed or have reason to believe your tap water is unsafe, you should treat the water before using it for drinking, preparing food, or brushing teeth.

There are two primary ways to treat water:

boil it or add bleach. If the supply is unsafe because of untreated surface water (from floods, streams or lakes), boiling is the better treatment.

If the water is cloudy, you should filter it before boiling or adding bleach. Filter cloudy water with filters designed for use when camping, coffee filters, paper towels, cheesecloth, or a cotton plug in a funnel.


Boiling is the best way to purify water that is unsafe because of viruses, parasites, or bacterial contamination. Dont boil the water if the contaminants are toxic metals, nitrates, pesticides, solvents or other chemicals. Boiling won’t remove chemicals or toxins

Bring the water to a roiling boil for one full minute. Boiling is the best way to treat water fromor affected bysurface water.

Keep boiled water covered while it cools and then store it in the manner described in “Storing Drinking Water for Emergencies” (see prior page).

Purify by adding liquid chlorine bleach

If boiling is not possible, add household liquid bleach to water contaminated with viruses, parasites, or bacterial contamination.

Bleach won’t remove chemicals or toxins.

Household bleach, such as Clorox or Purex, is usually 5.25 to 8.25 percent chlorine. Don’t use bleaches that contain perfumes, dyes or other additives. Be sure to read the label.

Filter cloudy water before adding bleach.

Place the water in a clean container. Use the table below to add the right amount of bleach. Mix thoroughly and let it stand for 60 minutes before drinking.

Purifying tablets or chemicals designed for camping or backpacking can also treat water effectively. Always follow the directions on the package.

Treating water with household bleach 5.25 to 8.25 percent chlorine

Water to be treated

Bleach to add


5 drops

1 quart, 1 liter ½ gallon, 2 quarts, 2 liters

10 drops

1 gallon

¼ teaspoon

5 gallons

1 teaspoon

10 gallons

2 teaspoons

The treatments described here only kill bacteria or viruses.

If you suspect the water is unsafe because of chemicals, oils, poisonous substances, sewage or other contaminants, do not drink the water.

A few words of caution

Bleach will not remove chemical

pollutants or kill some disease-causing organisms commonly found in surface water supplies, such as Cryptosporidium. This protozoan parasite can cause gastrointestinal illness. For a person with a weakened or compromised immune system, it can cause prolonged illness, even death.

Avoid water that contains solid materials, has an odor, or a dark color.

When water is hard to find

When tap water and bottled water are

unavailable, you can find water in some unexpected places.

Hidden water sources in your home

Safe water sources in your home include:

Water from the drain spout of a water heater. Be sure the electricity and gas are off before opening the spout. Drain the water into a clean storage container.

Water drained from the pipes inside your home. Open a faucet on the top floor of your home. Next, go to the faucet at the lowest point in your home. Open the faucet and drain the water you need into a clean storage container.

Water placed in ice cube trays in the freezer.

Dont use water from toilet flush tanks or bowls, radiators, waterbeds, swimming pools, or spas.

Sources of water outside your home

Before you drink water from these surface water sources, boil it for one full minute:


Natural springs



Rivers and